Forward Stroke

The forward stroke is the skill you will use most frequently when sea-kayaking. A good technique is essential for injury prevention, endurance, power and speed. 

The key to the forward stroke is using the bigger muscles of the back, stomach, shoulders and legs, rather than relying on the arms. Good rotation provides the power for the stroke.

A good forward technique can make an enormous difference to how much you enjoy your paddling, and how your body feels at the end of the day!

Posture Technique  Tips Common Mistakes 

Common mistakes

Common mistakes that paddlers make with the forward stroke are:

  • Arm paddling – your body remains fairly stationary and the large leg and torso muscles are poorly utilised. Your arm bends through the stroke and the blade stays close to the kayak, exiting late. 
  • Dropping the top hand during the drive phase. This pushes the blade past vertical so that it lifts water rather than drives.  
  • Rotating the shoulders with the hips fixed can cause lower back problems.
  • Gripping the paddle tight can lead to repetitive strain injuries, restricts the stroke, and is tiring. 
  • Leaning back on the back strap and slouching limits the ability to rotate and engage the abs.
  • Paddling with the hands low results in wide strokes that are less effective in driving the kayak forward.
  • Starting the rotation early expends the leg drive and rotation before the blade is fully engaged.
  • Pushing with the top hand rather than just supporting the paddle during the rotation drives the blade past vertical where it is less productive.
  • Bobbing forward to get the catch at the toes is less effective than rotating for a longer reach.
  • Exiting late -  the paddle is way past vertical and lifting water. This will inhibit speed as each stoke is less effective and takes longer.

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